Archive for April, 2010

7 stupid ways to screw up your direct mail

Screw up Direct MailA famous chess player once revealed to me how he wins so many games, often against far more experienced players. I had expected some arcane theory or secret formula. However, what he said was this: “I try to avoid making mistakes.”

I’ve never forgotten that bit of wisdom. In fact, I routinely give similar advice to my direct mail clients. Yes, I have all kinds of deep and well-thought-out ideas about creating effective direct mail, but the first thing I tell them is this: “Avoid mistakes before seeking brilliance.”

What sort of mistakes? After working with over 250 clients in the U.S. and abroad, I’ve seen lots of smart people making lots of stupid mistakes. But there are a few particularly stupid things I see again and again, each guaranteed to screw up your direct mail big time.

Stupid Thing #1 — Allow a trigger-happy “general” agency within killing range of your promotion.

One of the world’s largest chemical companies sent me a self-mailer to review. They were using it to generate inquiries for a special program here in the U.S., but it hadn’t produced the sort of response they wanted.

They didn’t have to tell me a general agency had created it. I could tell by looking at it. The copy was cutesy, full of pun-heavy, meaningless headlines. The design was garish, with wild colors and hard-to-read type styles. The offer was hidden. The response elements were buried. The central message was disjointed and unclear.

My review consisted of two words: “It stinks.”

My solution consisted of three words: “Do it again.”

They said they could design the piece themselves if I gave them new copy and some very specific design direction, so that’s what I did. But when I got samples a couple months later, I was shocked. The copy had been hacked to death. The design had reverted to its original hideousness.

The reason? They showed it to some people at their New York agency. The creative team took a fit and mercilessly sacrificed the newly born self-mailer on the altar of creative irrelevance. The result? More lousy results.

I have nothing against general agencies, but most of them simply can’t do effective direct advertising. (Most can’t do good brand advertising, either. But that’s another article.) If you’re serious about selling products, generating leads, or raising funds directly, keep a safe distance between your direct mail piece and most general agencies. Say, a half mile or so.

Stupid Thing #2 — Have the artist design the piece first, and the writer fill in the blanks later.

I’ve been in this situation more times than I care to admit. And the result is always bad. It’s usually an agency. And it’s usually right after they’ve won a client’s business with the aid of a few funky design mockups.

Trouble is, when clients are sold that way, they want to see a final product that looks like the original pitch. The format is set  and the layout is created before any thought is given to the actual message.

Like the time an agency sent me a mockup of a three-dimensional mailing to announce a trade show. The copy areas were indicated by neat little gray boxes here and there in the design. My job: fill in the blanks.

But, I asked, what about a response form? What about a letter? What about … no, just fill in the blanks, thank you.

I love designers. I work with them all the time. But with all due respect, designers should never, ever lead the creation of a direct mail sales message. Images entice, impress, demonstrate, dramatize, tease, assure, amuse, and suggest, but they don’t sell. Words sell. And words come from the writer.

Stupid Thing #3 — Plaster a clever teaser on every envelope you mail.

A teaser is a technique, not a requirement. But some people seem to experience physical pain at the idea of mailing a plain envelope.
A financial services firm asked me to write a lead generation package. I delivered it, and my contact called me to say some of my copy had been lost.

Me: Lost?

Client: Yes, there is no teaser copy for the envelope.

Me: Oh, well I didn’t write any.

Client: Didn’t write any? (Long silence.) Well the envelope can’t go out like that. What would the board of directors say?

Me: Are you mailing it to the board of directors?

Client: No, but they want a professional-looking package.

Me: Really? I would think they want a package that gets the best response possible. And in this case, I think that means using a plain envelope.

Client: (Another long silence.) Okay, well, our designer has some ideas for teaser copy, so we’ll come up with something.

The decision about whether to use a teaser depends on what you are selling and your relationship with your prospects. And it depends on whether you want your ad to look like an ad. Sometimes it should. Often it shouldn’t.

My rule on this is simple: When in doubt, leave it out.

Stupid Thing #4 — Spending 2 weeks on the flyer and 2 hours on the letter.

I know. Brochures are sexy. Letters aren’t. But the old saying is as true as it ever was: “The letter sells. The brochure tells.” So if you spend all your time on the tell, you just aren’t going to sell.

A newsletter publisher sent me a sample of a direct mail package that wasn’t working like they thought it should. I could see one big problem right away. The letter was a four-paragraph snoozer — little more than “Enclosed you will find, yadda yadda.” The company president said his secretary wrote it.

Sigh.

I could go on and on about the importance of letters, but here’s the bottom line. If it’s in an envelope, it needs a letter. And if you enclose a letter, it should sell. That’s where you make the personal connection. That’s where you make your pitch. That’s where you close the deal.

A package can work without a brochure, but it will seldom work without a good letter. It’s the most important part of every direct mail package, and you should allot your time accordingly.

Stupid Thing #5 — Create a slow-reveal “Burma Shave” brochure.

Remember those Burma Shave signs along the highway? (If you do, you’ve just revealed your age.) They would present a rhymed message, with each line on a different sign, so as you drove past, the message was slowly revealed, saving the product name for the end.

Cute. But a bad technique for direct mail brochures. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about. A few words of copy or a clever graphic on each panel. The reader has to open the brochure — reading in exactly the right order from panel to panel — to figure out the message.

Early in my career, I worked with an agency that insisted every brochure have a “set up” on the cover and a “payoff” inside. It was like writing jokes instead of brochures. Every time I delivered clear, straightforward copy that started selling right on the cover, it was rewritten to set up, then pay off.

Burma Shave signs had a simple purpose: to fix the Burma Shave name in the minds of buyers. However, your brochure has a much more difficult and immediate task: to support the sales message in the letter with explanations, details, and proofs. People look to it not for entertainment but for information.

So if you have something to say, say it. Start saying it right on the cover. And make sure your message is clear no matter how the reader skips around from panel to panel.

Stupid Thing #6 — Play hide and seek with the order form, guarantee, and testimonials.

A software company had tested a half dozen versions of the same mailer. All of them had performed poorly. When I got the samples, I could see why. The order form was hidden on the last panel of the brochure. The guarantee — one of the strongest I’ve ever seen — appeared in only one place in the middle of some text. And the testimonials were merely filler for a few open areas in the design.

But an order form is not a piece of extra paper. A guarantee is not a necessary evil to jam into the copy. Testimonials are not a design element. These are each part of the skeleton of your direct mail message. Without that skeleton, the body of your package collapses into a helpless mass of paper.

Whenever possible, make your order form a separate piece that falls right into your prospect’s lap. Highlight your guarantee on every piece to assure your prospect of your integrity. And group your testimonials so they make a stronger impression.

Stupid Thing #7 — Guess, guess, guess instead of test, test, test.

This is probably the stupidest thing of all. And I run into it all the time. Despite the image our industry has for being a bunch of number-happy bean counters, a frighteningly large percentage of businesses don’t test. Or don’t test properly.

One guy wanted me to help him sell a software product. He was using a self-mailer, but I thought he needed an envelope package. He said he had tested envelope packages and firmly stated that they don’t work.

But after asking some very specific questions, I found out he had done one mailing. With a new offer. To an untried list. During a bad time of the year. And didn’t mail it against his control. In other words, he did a lousy mailing, got lousy results, and concluded that envelope packages are lousy.

And you would be amazed at the businesses I talk to that don’t test at all — respected, household names you probably think are testing their socks off. Some of the worst offenders are big companies that have direct mail programs, but don’t rely on them for their success. And (egad) you’re probably borrowing techniques from these people!

I don’t care how smart you are or how well you know your market or product. Until you run a properly designed test, you don’t know jack. And even then, you should test again just to be sure.

Is testing expensive? Let me put it this way: it’s less expensive than rolling out a mailing that is destined to under perform or flop.

Avoiding stupid mistakes won’t guarantee success. But like the chess player, you will reduce your losses and thereby increase your wins.

Dean Rieck is a top-ranked freelance direct mail and direct marketing copywriter. He has been called “the best direct response strategist and copywriter” in America. Dean offers complete copywriting and design services for direct mail, B2B, print, sales lead generation, sales letters, e-mail and online marketing, and radio advertising. For more tips on improving your direct response advertising results, subscribe to Dean’s free direct marketing newsletter at www.DirectCreative.com.

For your postcard design and printing needs, please visit Salon Pro Marketing

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Something to make you laugh : ) A Hairy Situation

The First Hair Dryer was the Vacuum Cleaner!

Fascinating facts about the invention of the Hair Dryer in 1920. HAIR DRYER The first hair dryer was the vacuum cleaner!

Around the turn of the century, women dried their hair by connecting a hose to the exhaust of their vacuum cleaners. In early models, the front of a vacuum cleaner sucked air in, the back blew air out, and the hose could be attached to either end. In 1920, the first true hair dryer came on the market, but it was extremely large and heavy, and frequently overheated.

Since then, thousands of patents have been issued for different hair dryer designs, but most of them only tweak the outside packaging of the hairdryer so that it looks more aesthetically appealing to you. Aside from the addition of some safety features, the inside of a hair dryer hasn’t changed too much over the years. Not until 1951 was the first really workable dryer made. The device consisted of a hand-held dryer connected to a pink plastic bonnet fitted over the woman’s head.

    The First Hand-Held Hair Dryer

  1. The first hand-held hair dryer was put on the market in 1920. Unlike modern hair dryers, the first hand-held hair dryer was big, bulky and frequently overheated. Capable of producing only 100 watts of heat, the first hand-held hair dryer was not able to dry hair very quickly.
  2. Bonnet Hair Dryers

  3. In 1951, a new type of hair dryer was released. This new type of hair dryer consisted of a more lightweight hand-held hair dryer connected by a tube to a bonnet which was worn on the head. When the hair dryer was switched on, air would flow through the tube and come out through holes in the bonnet. The bonnet hair dryer was capable of producing around 300 watts of heat, more than the first hand-held hair dryer, but far less than our modern hair dryers.
  4. Hair Dryers of the 1960s

  5. By the 1960s, hair dryer technology had improved dramatically. Hair dryers of the 1960s were made from more lightweight materials than their earlier counterparts and were capable of producing up to 500 watts of heat. The improvements made in hair dryer technology were due to advancements made in the electric motors used in hair dryers.
  6. Safety Regulations for Hair Dryers

  7. Early hair dryers were prone to creating dangerous electrical shocks when accidentally dropped into water during use. In the 1970s, the Consumer Products Safety Commission developed guidelines for hair dryer manufacturers to follow to increase the safety of their products. The safety features found on modern hair dryers, such as temperature cutoff switches and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, were developed, in part, due to recommendations by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
  8. Modern Hair Dryers

  9. Hair dryers have come a long way since the invention of the first hand held hair dryer in the 1920s. Many of today’s models of hair dryers are designed to weigh less than one pound, as well as look sleek and stylish. They are also capable of producing much more power than earlier models of hair dryers. With modern hair dryers producing up to 2,000 watts of power, users can dry their hair faster than ever before.

Thank you EHow

Physical Health and Work Performance: A Healthy Employee Enables a Healthy Work Environment

Physical health is very important in today’s work place. In today’s high end technology world it is necessary to work smart and possess great skills. There are many important jobs that require good skills and significant amount of strength to be able to perform at the high level. Physical health and work performance go hand in hand. Mental and physical health plays a very important role for an employee’s growth and productivity. It helps to improve the efficiency of the employee, leading to better performance.

Good physical health of workers helps in long-term cost benefit saving. Job performance can be predicted through physical health and physiological wellbeing. The productivity can be increased by good physical health of the workers. A company has comparatively higher percentage of educated and skilled workers, and by implementing an up-dated Industrial Safety Program, there can be a noticeable reduction in major accidents in the factory areas too.

Physical health and work performance of the employee are directly related. Healthy work environment will help in improving his productivity. It helps in giving job satisfaction to the employees. It is used to motivate the employees to work better and in safer manner i.e. work hard and play safe. It helps to reduce the expenses on medical aid. It also helps in reducing the labor turnover rate. Safety of the employees is one of the major concerns of the company.

Consequently adequate attention to the aspect of Industrial Safety and Hygiene for improving the production has been given in the last few years. As brought out earlier, it has formulated a well defined healthy environment, has constituted a safety committee and implemented measures for prevention of accidents and fire. All statutory provisions are being followed. A number of non-statutory provisions are also incorporated to improve professional environment.

In the present industrial environment most of the management of industrial organizations has realized the importance of physical health and work performance and is paying much more attention to healthy working environment than ever before. The statutory provisions made by the government, awareness of the workers and the employers about the importance and advantages of good hygiene for good and healthy working condition which has to be improved, developing healthy working conditions for the employees in the industrial organizations.

Unsafe conditions must be removed and unsafe act totally avoided. That would prevent accidents and thus ensure safety of the employees and that of the plant and machinery. There is a need for management to have a sincere and humanitarian interest in their employees. They must implement a good safety program in their factories. When top management supports good safety program on humanitarian grounds, it contributes towards increased production, lower costs and better profits. There is no doubt that companies have realized its motive of physical health and work performance being inter related by providing a safe and labour friendly environment. In fact, companies have used this as a tool or means to keep harmonious industrial relation.

Improvement in physical health aims at the promotion of the workers physical, mental and social well-being. It will also help to improve the physical health and work performance of the employees resulting in increased morale of the employees who are associated with the work environment.

About The Author

Ryan Fyfe is the CEO of http://www.shiftplanning.com/ – An intuitive and free online employee scheduling tool for businesses of all sizes in all industries.

The author invites you to visit:
http://www.shiftplanning.com

Popular shampoos contain toxic chemicals linked to nerve damage

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have found a correlation between an ingredient found in shampoos and nervous system damage. The experiments were conducted with the brain cells of rats and they show that contact with this ingredient called methylisothiazoline, or MIT, causes neurological damage.

Which products contain this chemical compound MIT? Head and Shoulders, Suave, Clairol and Pantene Hair Conditioner all contain this ingredient. Researchers are concerned that exposure to this chemical by pregnant women could put their fetus at risk for abnormal brain development. In other people, exposure could also be a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other nervous system disorders.

The chemical causes these effects by preventing communication between neurons. Essentially, it slows the networking of neurons, and since the nervous system and brain function on a system of neural networks, the slowing of this network will suppress and impair the normal function of the brain and nervous system.

These finding were presented December 5th at the American Society for Cell Biology annual meeting.   Continued

How to Recession Proof Your Salon / Spa Business

I recently heard that in Canada last year, over 600 salons had to close their doors. On one hand, this makes me very sad but I have to say that it didn’t surprise me.

Now although there can be numerous reasons a salon cannot sustain itself in a recession, the fact is that problems that seem insignificant in strong economic times become the straw that broke the camels back in weak economic times.

All too often salon owners fail to see how a small issue can impact their future success. For example, a stylist that runs 15 minutes behind on a consistent basis doesn’t seem like a big deal to the salon owner because she is good at what she does, the clients seem to love her and she’s been at the salon a long time so you don’t want to rock the boat and risk upsetting her. After all, it’s hard to get people to change and sometimes we just have to take the good with the bad, right?

Normally this may not bother the clients but if they now have to work a little longer to make extra cash or maybe they have chosen to pick up their kids from daycare a little sooner to save a few dollars, the fact that they are sitting in the waiting room wasting time and money becomes annoying. Now let’s also say that on this same visit the receptionist was a bit rude on the phone and there were no clean hand towels in the washroom. Even though you may think it is not a major issue, it can cause this client to rethink their loyalty. Maybe they start to ask their friends about their salons, maybe they take stock of just how happy they really are with their haircut and maybe they remember that gift certificate they got for Christmas from the salon just down the road. Now what happens if this new salon delivered a great haircut, the receptionist greeted her with a handshake and hung her jacket, there were a stack of scented hand towels in the washroom and she got an incentive to schedule her next appointment?

So what can a salon do to secure itself in an ever-changing economy? Unfortunately we have no control over what happens in the economy so the only thing we can control is what happens in the salon. We do know that the foundation of every service industry is the client and that the amount of success a business has is directly related to the return of happy clients. The following is a basic fundamental salon success formula:

 Know your brand. Know who you are and what you do best. (Your vision and mission.) Do it better than anyone else, perfect it, become the masters.

Turn this brand into a client experience. This is best described as the process, procedure and even scripts you use with your clients from the moment they call your salon right through to the check out. It is your service guarantee.  

Train each and every person who works in your spa or salon to implement this client experience with no fail…consistently. Your clients need to feel confident that every person they come in contact with is capable of taking care of them. To best demonstrate this I will share my experience. For my yearly visit at my doctors I was lead into a room, asked to change into a paper gown and have a seat up on the bench. After about 15 minutes I began to wonder if the doctor had forgotten about me or if the receptionist ever told her. Thank goodness she came in just before I was forced out of that room to inquire in my paper gown! Every conversation should inform your clients of what will happen next so they never experience that feeling.

Monitor this process diligently so you know for sure that your client experience and brand is being implemented. If you do not have a system to train, monitor and measure employee performance you will be creating a weak link making your business susceptible to outside circumstances.

Take a proactive stand to the challenges your salon is having and correct them when they happen rather than waiting till you have to make tough decisions.

For more great business ideas and inspiration please visit  Salon Operating System

What is Triclosan? It’s in Deodorants, toothpastes, shaving creams, mouth washes and cleaning supplies,

Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent. It is a polychloro phenoxy phenol. Despite being used in many consumer products, beyond its use in toothpaste to prevent gingivitis, there’s no evidence by the FDA that triclosan provides an extra benefit to health in other consumer products.[1] Triclosan safety is currently under review by the FDA.[1]

Uses

Triclosan has been used since 1972, and it is present in soaps (0.10-1.00%), deodorants, toothpastes, shaving creams, mouth washes, and cleaning supplies, and is infused in an increasing number of consumer products, such as kitchen utensils, toys, bedding, socks, and trash bags. Triclosan has been shown to be effective in reducing and controlling bacterial contamination on the hands and on treated products. More recently, showering or bathing with 2% triclosan has become a recommended regimen for the decolonization of patients whose skin is carrying methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)[2] following the successful control of MRSA outbreaks in several clinical settings.[3][4]

Triclosan is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the European Union. During wastewater treatment, a portion of triclosan is degraded, while the remaining adsorbs to sewage sludge or exits the plant in wastewater effluent.[5][6] In the environment, triclosan may be degraded by microorganisms or react with sunlight, forming other compounds, which may include chlorophenols and dioxin, or it may adsorb to particles that settle out of the water column and form sediment.[5][7] Triclosan was found in Greifensee sediment that was over 30 years old, suggesting that triclosan is degraded or removed slowly in sediment.[5]

Mechanism of action

At in-use concentrations, triclosan acts as a biocide, with multiple cytoplasmic and membrane targets.[8] At lower concentrations, however, triclosan appears bacteriostatic and is seen to target bacteria mainly by inhibiting fatty acid synthesis. Triclosan binds to bacterial enoyl-acyl carrier protein reductase enzyme (ENR), which is encoded by the gene FabI. This binding increases the enzyme’s affinity for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). This results in the formation of a stable ternary complex of ENR-NAD+-triclosan, which is unable to participate in fatty acid synthesis. Fatty acid is necessary for reproducing and building cell membranes. Humans do not have an ENR enzyme, and thus are not affected. Some bacterial species can develop low-level resistance to triclosan at its lower bacteriostatic concentrations due to FabI mutations, which results in a decrease of triclosan’s effect on ENR-NAD+ binding, as shown in Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.[9][10] Another way for these bacteria to gain low-level resistance to triclosan is to overexpress FabI.[11] Some bacteria have innate resistance to triclosan at low, bacteriostatic levels, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which possesses multi-drug efflux pumps that ‘pump’ triclosan out of the cell.[12] Other bacteria, such as some of the Bacillus genus, have alternative FabI genes (FabK) to which triclosan does not bind and hence are less susceptible.

Formation of dioxin in surface water

The use of triclosan in household anti-bacterial products introduces the chemical to surface waters where it can form dioxins. The dioxin compound that formed when triclosan degraded in sunlight was shown in a study by University of Minnesota researchers not to be of public health concern. Dioxin is not one compound, but a family of compounds of widely ranging toxicity. Of the 210 dioxin and furan family compounds, only 17 are considered to be of public health concern.[13]

Resistance concerns

An article coauthored by Dr. Stuart Levy in the August 6, 1998 issue of Nature[14] warned that triclosan’s overuse could cause resistant strains of bacteria to develop, in much the same way that antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains are emerging, based on speculation that triclosan behaved like an antibiotic. Based on this speculation, in 2003, the Sunday Herald newspaper reported that some UK supermarkets and other retailers were considering phasing out products containing triclosan.[15]

It has since been shown that the laboratory method used by Dr. Levy was not effective in predicting bacterial resistance for biocides like triclosan,[16] At least seven peer-reviewed and published studies have been conducted demonstrating that triclosan is not significantly associated with bacterial resistance over the short term, including one study coauthored by Dr. Levy.[17]

Some level of triclosan resistance can occur in some microorganisms, but the larger concern is with the potential for cross-resistance or co-resistance to other antimicrobials. StudiesHealth concerns

In August 2009 the Canadian Medical Association asked the Canadian government to ban triclosan use in household products under concerns of creating bacterial resistance and producing dangerous side products (chloroform).[19]

Reports have suggested that triclosan can combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform gas,[20] which the United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a probable human carcinogen. As a result, triclosan was the target of a UK cancer alert, even though the study showed that the amount of chloroform generated was less than amounts often present in chlorinated drinking waters.

Triclosan also reacts with the free chlorine in tap water to produce lesser amounts of other compounds, like 2,4-dichlorophenol.[20] Most of these intermediates convert into dioxins upon exposure to UV radiation (from the sun or other sources). Although small amounts of dioxins are produced, there is a great deal of concern over this effect, because some dioxins are extremely toxic and are very potent endocrine disruptors. They are also chemically very stable, so that they are eliminated from the body very slowly (they can bioaccumulate to dangerous levels), and they persist in the environment for a very long time.

Triclosan is chemically somewhat similar to the dioxin class of compounds. Its production leads to small amounts of residual polychlorinated dioxins, and polychlorinated furans, which are contained in small amounts, in the products that are using it.

A 2006 study concluded that low doses of triclosan act as an endocrine disruptor in the North American bullfrog.[21] The hypothesis proposed is that triclosan blocks the metabolism of thyroid hormone, because it chemically mimics thyroid hormone, and binds to the hormone receptor sites, blocking them, so that normal hormones cannot be utilized. Triclosan has also been found in both the bile of fish living downstream from waste water processing plants and in human milk.[22] The negative effects of triclosan on the environment and its questionable benefits in toothpastes[23] has led to the Swedish Naturskyddsföreningen to recommend not using triclosan in toothpaste.[24] Another 2009 study demonstrated that triclosan exposure significantly impacts thyroid hormone concentrations in the male juvenile rats.[25]

Triclosan is used in many common household products, including Clearasil Daily Face Wash, Dentyl mouthwash, Dawn, the Colgate Total range, Crest Cavity Protection, Softsoap, Dial, Right Guard deodorant, Sensodyne Total Care, Old Spice, Mentadent, and Bath and Body works hand sanitizers.

In the United States, manufacturers of products containing triclosan must now say so somewhere on the label.